Introduction to Big Data
Social life continues to increasingly occur in digital environments and to be mediated by digital systems. Big data represents the data being generated by the digitization of social life which we break down into three domains: digital life, digitalized life, and digitized traces. We argue that there is enormous potential in using big data to study a variety of phenomena that remain difficult to observe. However, there are some recurring vulnerabilities which should be addressed. We also outline the role institutions must play in providing access to data, clarifying the ethical rules of the road, and training socioligists to use the data. Finally, we conclude by pointing to a few trends which are not yet common in research using big data, but will play an increasing role in it.
Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Sociology Volume 43 is July 30, 2017. Please see
http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.